I Got Scammed

Lessons I learned from it

By Marvin Druger
Email: mdruger@syr.edu

Editor’s Note: Marvin Druger had his computer locked by scam­mers. He wrote this article by hand—see image on the right. We later typed it.

I am sitting at the kitchen table writing this article with a ballpoint pen. The reason is that scammers locked my computer. But, I learned valuable lessons from this scamming experience.

I received a text message from a Geek Squad Group that looked like an invoice for $384.97. I didn’t recall any transaction with this group, but that is not unusual for me. My dear, deceased wife, Pat, took care of all the finances and I barely knew how to pay bills. The text had a phone number and I called to find out more about the $384.97. A man with a thick, foreign accent answered the phone and explained that I was due for a refund of $384.97. He guided me to my computer to complete a refund form and to provide other details needed to get the refund. I had no recollection of the transaction, but a refund is a refund. So I followed along with the man’s instructions. The refund form asked for my Social Security number which I foolishly included.

Then, the scammer took control of my computer to process the refund.

A small arrow darted back and forth on the computer screen and wave-like lines appeared. The last step was to press the $ key; the same key has a 4 numeral below the $. I’m pretty sure that I pressed the key correctly for the $. Instead, the 4 appeared on the screen. I pressed the key it again and another 4 appeared on the screen.

The screen was showing some of my bank account numbers and, suddenly, $44,384.97 appeared in my account, instead of $384.97. The scammer told me that I had to pay them back the $44,000 that was presumably deposited in my bank account by mistake. He told me that I had to go to the bank immediately to withdraw the money in cash. He said, “Bring your cell phone and charger along and I’ll stay with you on the phone until the transaction is completed.”

I hopped into my car and headed toward the bank. He told me to withdraw the money in cash and say that it was for home improvements. I began to get suspicious.

He said, “Don’t tell anyone about this because I don’t want to damage the reputation of our company.” He also said, “If you can’t get the full $44,000, get as much as you can.”

By then, I was convinced that I was being scammed. I said, “This sounds like a scam. I’ll tell the bank manager about this situation and I will also tell the Federal Trade Commission.”

He warned me not to do this and threatened to lock my computer. Suddenly, he disappeared from my phone.

I told the bank teller about the situation and he reassured me that this was, indeed, a scam. He checked my accounts and nothing had been deposited or withdrawn. He promised to watch over my accounts frequently from then on.